diseases, gender

Being a historian: when the personal is historical

On the theme of my favourite history blogs, as introduced here: another blog I enjoy very much is Nursing Clio. It took me a while to ‘get’ the title; I used to think it was a nursing history blog, but it’s far more than that. The USP, among medical history blogs, is the point that ‘the issues that dominate today’s headlines and affect our daily lives reach far back into the past — that the personal is historical’. This made Nursing Clio the ideal place for me to reflect on the personal experience of breaking my wrist, in ‘The history of a wrist: when historians fall over’.

It was in 2015, on my way to an MA tutors’ briefing meeting, that I stepped out of the back door backwards, forgetting the small step there, and realised as I hit the concrete that I had done Something Bad to my wrist. I was fairly embarrassed about it; not only did I have to be picked up from the floor by two neighbours, but it felt like a pretty stupid thing to do, because even without the particular circumstances Falling Over isn’t cool at all. My lack of faith in the initial diagnosis didn’t help me to process what I’d done. Writing this blog post contributed to my recovery; by linking my experience to the history of the identification of the bones in the wrist I found I felt a lot better. I know that must sound odd to a non-historian, but I think it’s just how I function. This was the reverse of an allegedly common situation in medical history, in which the historian develops the condition about which she is writing!

In my other post for Nursing Clio, ‘Being the same and different’, I tried to link the historical issues around whether we focus on those in the past as Just Like Us or as Very Different From Us to another aspect of my life: the Church of England debates on women as priests and then as bishops. As I said in the blog post, the issue of whether we foreground sameness or difference in our concepts of male and female are fundamental to these debates: ‘Are women bishops impossible because men and women are just “different”? Are women bishops a good thing because they bring special, different, “female” qualities to leadership?’

I’m still reflecting on those questions about gender: but fortunately I now have two functioning wrists with which to navigate my computer as I write about them!


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